Like Silas Marner, Eliot’s novel Adam Bede (1859) is set in a fictional rural community in which the people adhere to traditional ways of communal living. Unlike the situation in Silas Marner, however, the villagers must learn to deal with the kinds of social change they are illequipped to face.
North and South (1855), by Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, makes for an interesting comparison with Eliot’s style and themes. Margaret Hale, a girl from southern England, is unwillingly sent to the northern industrial city of Manchester, where she must adjust to a rougher society than the one in which she was raised.
Frederick Robert Karl’s biography George Eliot: Voice of a Century: A Biography (1995) has been widely praised for bringing Eliot vividly to life. Giving full attention to issues of class and gender, he recreates the world in which she lived and shows how she became a great writer.
Asa Briggs’s The Age of Improvement: 1783– 1867 (1959; 2d ed., 1999) is a classic study of how and why Britain changed from the time of the French Revolution to the mid-Victorian era. Briggs covers sociological, economic, political and cultural history.
Richard Muir’s The English Village (1980) describes the history of the English village and provides many photographs.